The Importance of Asking the Right Interview Questions

If you want to hire the best people, you need to ask the best interview questions. Great interviews start with great questions, and they should be behavioral-based questions. These are questions that attempt to measure how an employee has handled situations in the past in order to predict how they will behave in the future. These are questions that can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no” and they are designed to get your candidates talking and sharing more freely.




A behavioral-based interview question is not a “hypothetical”. To answer the question, the candidate must provide an example of something that happened in the past. An example of a hypothetical question is “What would you bring to the team if offered this position?” This is a good question and has value, but it’s more a measure of how someone sees themselves and is not going to measure how someone behaved in the past.


An example of how to ask a behavior-based interview question: “Tell me about a time when you…” (instead of “What would you do if….?”).


There will be times when you ask an excellent behavioral-based question and the candidate may say, “If that were to happen, something I would do is...”. In saying that, they turned a behavioral-based question into a hypothetical question. It’s our role as responsible interviewers to push the candidate gently to attempt to get them to provide an actual past example. When you do this, candidates may get caught off guard, and they may not have an exact experience to refer to. That can be OK, as long as not EVERY question you asked is met with such an answer.




Common thought is that past performance is the best indicator of future behavior. People can change, but they don’t change quickly and less often do they change in “big” ways. People are fairly consistent over time, and we change tend to change incrementally. Therefore, asking questions that measure an employee’s past behavior will provide a good sense of how a candidate will behave in the future.


A quick note on asking “knowledge” question: It can be also important to measure a candidate’s knowledge during an interview (or test), just be sure the knowledge you are measuring is both related to the job AND required to have on day of being hired. But remember, just because someone has the knowledge doesn’t mean they will behave in a way that is consistent with that knowledge. You can write a book on leadership, but it doesn’t make you a good leader. Asking the right behavioral-based questions can truly help differentiate the two.


It’s also important to remember that as a responsible interviewer, you should understand what you are looking for in a candidate (the knowledges, skills, abilities, etc.). With an understanding of you’re your company is, and what it takes to succeed at both your company and in the role, you are much better positioned to find someone who truly fits.


To learn more about how PEAR can assist with your recruitment needs, or for guidance on behavioral questions to ask during your next interview, please contact Michel Lukas at


By Michel Lukas, SHRM-CP